Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 6 - Goodbye Istanbul, Hello Greece

Today is our last day in Turkey, and I am sad to say goodbye to Istanbul and all of the sites, wonderful people, fabulous food, and Bambi Burgers, though this is not farewell. We’ll have one more day before we return to the States. What a cool city, so interesting, warm, and new. I hope to come back one day soon. We had a noon flight on Aegean Air, which would take us to Athens, Greece, where we would be met by our travel agent. They had arranged a car to take us to the hotel, where we would spend two nights before taking the ferry out to the islands.

The flight was hilarious, not unlike the one on Turkish Air, where it seemed like they were making things up as they went along. People seemed to flaunt the rules, and then they actually served up a hot meal, on a 1.5 hour flight. By the time they served everyone their food, the plane was beginning its descent. The flight crew was scrambling to clean up the dishes before the plane landed, and literally as the airport came into the view, the had the cabin cleared out. Then, when we landed, they always indicate that the passengers should stay seated until the plane comes to a stop, which everyone ignored. It was like being in a movie.

From the airport, our hosts were awaiting us in the terminal. They had everything planned out. Now normally we like to wing it when it comes to travel, but we found the Greek Islands are bit overwhelming. There are several of them, and it’s hard to really choose which one to go to. Once you get there, there are cabs, ferries, hotels, and planes to arrange. One of the islands we are going to is far enough away that we are flying back to Athens. It’s also one of the few that is big enough to house an airport.

They had two cabs waiting for us, figuring we had a lot of luggage, and were shocked at how lightly we had packed. In retrospect, we did a pretty good job with packing. We each had a backpack, and then one medium sized duffle bag and a bigger one. The kids packed all their own stuff into their backpacks, and otherwise we packed really lightly, employing my credo to only bring along clothes for half of the days you are gone. Sometimes, even this is too much.

Either way, two cabs was a waste. We only needed one, but they insisted on taking both cars, so we split up. N and I went in one, and R and A in the other. Let me tell you, it was one crazy cab ride. Besides sharing his thoughts on why Turkey doesn’t belong in the EU and why all these immigrants are a problem, the driver was doing about 150km/hr on the highway. I figured it was just how people drive, but he was passing the other cars like it was Lemans. I was a little concerned.

Best of all, he didn’t bother to slow down once we got into the city. He was scaring the pedestrians to death, though it was kind of funny seeing them jump out of the way, fearing for their lives. I can’t say I blame them. Then we hit what was, in all my years of traveling, the worst traffic jam I have ever seen or been in. Amazing. There were cars for as far as the eye could see, and we were going nowhere fast. This, of course, gave our driver a good reason to start driving on the sidewalk and going the wrong way on one-way streets. Hilarious. He even pulled of the gutsiest U-turn I’ve ever seen, cutting off four lanes of traffic to turn around.

I told the guy to just get us close to the hotel and we’d walk, but he said that wouldn’t be right. However, at some point, his partner called and said he was near the hotel but in the opposite lane of traffic. They formulated a plan on the spot. Since our luggage was R&A’s taxi, N and I would get out of the cab, run across the road, stopping traffic, and then join R&A in their cab. We couldn’t have scripted this better had we tried. Since we were stuck in traffic anyway, the other driveway met us in the center median, then led us to the promised land. I felt like a bona fide city dweller. I will say this - having lived for ten years in New York City prepares you for just about anything, especially international travel.

We were told that there was some sort of protest about the economy that had shut the downtown streets down, but somehow that explanation didn’t quite account for what we had experienced. It was like the traffic we saw in Marrakech, except in Morocco it was all donkeys and mopeds.

We checked into our hotel and needed a moment to regroup. The hotel is nice, part of our tour package, with a great view of the Acropolis on the roof. It is walking distance to many of the sites, though it doesn’t have a pool. Bummer.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pics.

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